How to Become a Personal Trainer [And be Good at It]

Becoming a personal trainer is easy. There are plenty of programs like the NASM CPT that can get you certified with quality in a hurry. But I don't want you to be JUST a personal trainer. I want you to know that there is a real path to fitness greatness. It's the path I took to get from no certification and a journalism degree to NBA Strength & Conditioning Coach in four short years. 

But before you can get on this road, you have to be able to avoid the traps set up along the way. You are probably asking yourself questions like, "What is a personal trainer salary?" or "How much does it cost to become a personal trainer?" Both of these are valid questions but they do not breed long term success in this field. There are a lot of personal trainers out there but the best ones understand this simple idea, YOU must become more valuable before you can earn more money.

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When I started my journey from journalism to the NBA, I knew that I didn't bring much to the table. I knew I needed to become a valuable asset. So I literally tried to pack as much value into my brain as I possibly could. I invested in hundreds of books, courses and seminars over those four years (and still to this day) in order to become valuable. 

Now I'm going to tell you a secret. This is the biggest secret in our industry. Only the top 1% will join you on this path. This leaves the door open to massive opportunity. Read these three reasons why you MUST increase your value through education or accept a mediocre fitness career.

1. You need to be good at your job. The old saying goes, “fake it till you make it” but that doesn’t really work here. The results speak for themselves. You can’t fake it. It will be obvious that you aren’t getting the job done. Your athletes are either getting better or they aren’t. In fact, not having the knowledge can cause injuries to become more frequent. You have to be a trustworthy source of RELIABLE fitness information. You can’t do that if you don’t have the knowledge. You can be the best motivator in the world but it won’t matter if your programs don’t work.

You can take the first step towards being great at your job by understanding the importance of building single leg stance.

Tony Robbins is a brilliant leader and motivator, but I don’t want him trying to address my knee pain.

2. What will the answer be when the question gets asked?   For every great job on the planet, there will inevitably be a flood of applications. When I worked for the Los Angeles Lakers, I received several resumes every single day and we didn’t even have an opening. If we had posted a listing here on LinkedIn, we would have gotten THOUSANDS of applications. How would we have possibly been able to diligently go through them. It’s not happening. When a job is open, someone on the hiring side will go through their network. If they don’t have anyone they know of, they will ask people they trust if they know anybody. Networking is the inconvenient truth of any industry but if you're serious and you Network with Purpose, it makes your rise a piece of cake. 

That will be the most important question to your entire career. “Do you know anyone?” That’s what they will ask. All of your preparation will culminate in that moment. You have either done the work or you haven’t. Education is a massive part of this. If you are not educated, your name will not be mentioned. Period.

They need to be certain that you are a great candidate, capable of doing that job or else they will look bad. Nobody wants to recommend someone who is kinda smart. Have you seen those AT&T commercials? Just OK, is not OK.

3. You can’t be a dinosaur. I know of a former major sport strength coach (when I say major sport, I mean NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB but I won’t say which to preserve his identity) who coached at the highest level for twenty years. He did not value education. As the world of sport performance evolved, so did the science, the techniques and the requirements. As most will experience in the world of pro sports, front office changes turned into performance staff changes. He was out of a job. And he has yet to find another because he’s a dinosaur. His education is just not enough anymore. He’s so far behind. Science is constantly evolving. Learning is a lifelong process.

If you are unwilling to put the time and resources into learning, someone else will and you too, may find yourself back to square one. The tough part of the strength & conditioning industry is that there are very few good jobs and the pay gap is huge. You either make great money or just enough to get by. There is no in between. What are you doing to make sure you are on the right side of that ratio?

I believe that fitness professionals have a tremendous responsibility to their clients. They have been trusted with the their clients' most precious possession, their body. Trainers have been trusted to help them reach their goal. This is truly your greatest honor.

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